Many believe Anil Kumble is one among the last set of gentlemen cricketers.
He played the game the way it was designed to be played. Kumble was competitive and aggressive but never crossed the line. To him, being competitive meant conceding no quarter to the opponent. Being aggressive meant giving it back to the rival without a word or a stare. Being a gentleman never meant showing up as meek or submissive.
Having lived the ultimate dream of any bowler to claim a ‘Perfect 10’ in a Test innings, Kumble went on to lead the Indian team with a fair amount of success. He gave up international cricket when his fans were still asking. “Why?” In the past couple of years, Kumble has been busy in putting Karnataka’s cricket in order. Concurrently, he is also part of the Mumbai Indians team as a ‘mentor’. But his role is more than what the word suggests.
“My role, call me mentor or whatever, is basically a long term strategy for the franchise, whenever there is full auction I come in and put the whole team in place, put in the support staff. In this particular IPL, where you are required to strategise, support the captain and the various players in terms of cricketing aspects, it is important to be someone who understands the game, and also a little bit of administration.”
Explaining his functions, Kumble says, “The aim is to win the IPL and (for that) how best you can provide the players the right space. I am basically the owner’s representative. IPL is totally different from the regular T20 tournaments. So many matches, ups and downs, large squads, manage the players’ motivational level, different venues and different surfaces. It’s all about the understanding the game. Of course, there is no blue print for winning the championship.”
Throwing light on the team meetings, Kumble says, “I play a role there give my inputs in the team meetings and ideas to the coach and the captain. The aim is to help the younger lot mature and manage the pressures of the IPL. That is the bigger challenge. You do well in one game and then how do you manage the fame and the pressures.”
Asked about the presence of several illustrious names in the dressing room, Kumble sounds excited. “It’s great to have such wealth of experience. That is another thing I have to channelise to the benefit of the team. Sachin’s knowledge of the IPL helps. Nice to get John (Wright) into the Indian set up. Fresh ideas from John will help. Sharing knowledge helps the team, especially the youngsters. Some (players) you have admired as opposition and to have them in your side is a great feeling.”
It is certain that some in the dressing room take pride, and some others feel fortunate, in sharing the space with such a humble cricketer.